State Auditor addresses ‘red flags’ he sees in Jackson County property assessment

Published: Aug. 30, 2023 at 5:19 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 30, 2023 at 7:59 PM CDT
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JACKSON COUNTY, Mo. (KCTV) - Jackson County’s recent tax assessment will be getting a closer look from Missouri State auditor Scott Fitzpatrick. He revealed to KCTV5 some of the items he’ll take a deeper look at.

Very likely high on the list is something that our Investigative Team uncovered—the surprising number of properties assessed at the same value, $356,270.

“I saw in one of your articles that one (property) didn’t even have a home on it. And so, there’s obviously something going on with that number,” said Fitzpatrick. “There’s some sort of formula that was being used that was spitting that number out a lot and that would be one of the things that would likely be reviewed during the audit.”

Jackson County will not admit this is a mistake. Tyler Technologies, the third-party vendor hired to help with the assessment, also refuses to discuss what happened with that number.

KCTV talked with several homeowners whose property was assessed at $356,270. The ones we talked with purchased their homes in December of last year for values ranging between $100,000 and $150,000. Our reporting has revealed homes that the 500+ properties assessed at the specific value increased in value 168.3% -- that’s five times the county average.

We asked one homeowner if she could pay that extra tax.

“No I can’t,” said Amanda Barron, a single mother who recently bought an 800 square-foot house in Independence. “It’s stressful, especially when you saved your little pennies.”

Another issue the state auditor will look at is the question of physical inspections. It’s been a bone of contention for many homeowners.

We talked with the owner of a half-acre, vacant lot. It was valued at $356,270. He doesn’t believe an in-person inspection took place. That goes against a new state law.

The law states that a physical inspection must be completed if the property tax value is more than 15 percent. Many homeowners told us they pushed for proof that a physical inspection was done, but never got it. Fitzpatrick says that’s a big concern.

“There are a lot of a lot of red flags and a lot of questions,” said Fitzpatrick. “Generally, there are things that need to be looked at. There are certainly concerns and I think that the people of Jackson County’s concerns are very valid.”

Fitzpatrick was well aware of concerns over the assessment long before the Jackson County Legislature asked for an audit. Several property owners had already contacted his office with complaints, and he informed the county his office is investigating those whistleblower complaints.

Now, add on the audit, and Fitzpatrick has a big job. But he says he understands the need to compress the timeline as much as possible. Tax bills go out in October and people are required to pay by Dec. 31. Fitzpatrick says any information uncovered will be quickly shared with the Legislature.